Patents That Changed the World

There are many notable patents that changed the world, which is something that all people can agree on. While the idea of patents themselves can be highly debatable depending on the type of invention and industry, certain patents have made a large impact on the world.

Notable Patents

When we think of notable patents, we generally think of Thomas A. Edison’s inventions – whether it be the electric bulb (patented in 1880), the phonograph (patented in 1878), his invention of the incandescent light (patented in 1880), or his invention of the motion picture (patented in 1893). We might also think of Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone, which was patented in 1877. But there are several other notable patents out there that we generally don’t think about.

Some of these inventions include:

• In 1794, Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, which removes seeds from cotton fiber.

• In 1836, Samuel Colt patented the revolver.

• In 1837, Thomas Davenport patented the electric motor.

• In 1844, Charles Goodyear patented rubber.

• In 1861, Elisha Graves Otis patented the elevator.

• The first working railway steam locomotive was built in 1804 in the UK by Richard Trevithick.

• The gas engine for the railway locomotive was patented in 1877, and the diesel engine was patented in 1895.

• In 1887, George Eastman developed the first camera, calling it ‘Kodak.’ The patent on this was filed in 1888.

• Photographs were created and patented by George Eastman in 1888.

• The atomic bomb was invented by J. Robert Oppenheimer. Such bombs were used on August 6, 1945, dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. (While this happened at the approval of then-U.S. President Harry Truman, Oppenheimer himself was not happy with the use of his invention).

• Szilard Fermi patented the nuclear reactor in 1955. It generates energy for household and industrial use.

• Penicillin was invented in 1928 by Alexandar Fleming. It wasn’t produced until 1944 by A. Moyer.

Computer technology also enhanced the market throughout the 1900s. Such inventions include:

• The first mainframe computer, which was built in 1943 by IBM. An actual working computer wasn’t patented until 1964 by J.P. Eckart. The first commercial model of the computer was marketed in 1983 by Commodore, which obtained a patent in 1989.

• The computer mouse was patented in 1984 by Apple.

Other Valuable Patents

There are many other valuable patents that have been obtained throughout history, some of which are more known to us than others. For example, GoPro, founded by Nicholas Woodman, was patented in February 2004. His first patent was a harness with a camera that is attached to the body safely so that it won’t fall off when engaging in certain activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, rock-climbing, biking, and other activities.

Another common valuable patent is Dropbox, which was patented in August 2010. Dropbox allows multiple people to share and synchronize folders and contacts across one network.

Some other valuable patents, which may be less known include:

• FireEye, which was patented in March 2005. FireEye is a security system and method that can detect computer malware.

• Zynga, which was patented in November 2008. Zynga is a gaming module that allows users to create characters and teams and can challenge one another based on certain powers and performance levels within the gaming module.

• Square, which was patented in October 2010. This is a method for decoding card swipe signals. Simply put, it allows customers to swipe their credit card on a mobile phone attachment for purchases.

• Facebook’s privacy summary, which was patented in July 2012. The privacy summary itself specifies certain privacy settings, systems, and methods to generate and choose from multiple privacy setting selections.

• Theranos medical patch, which was patented in August 2005. This patch helps administer drugs, monitor variables in one’s blood, and adjusts the dosage of medication.

• SolarCity was patented in 2009. This is a method for financing renewable energy systems. Its goal is to build a cleaner and healthier world.

If you need help learning more about patents that had an impact on the world, or need assistance filing your own patent application, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5-percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with, or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.